Advisers should first establish the scope of their legal authority to render assistance. While some levels of assistance are within the scope of an adviser’s legal authority as a Designated School Official (DSO) or Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO), an experienced immigration attorney should handle other levels of assistance.

Preparing a student or scholar to discuss other options with an immigration lawyer

Forms of immigration relief that are not within the scope of DSO or ARO authority should be handled by an experienced immigration attorney or accredited representative. Advisers can help by familiarizing the student or scholar with the possible forms of immigration relief available, and why these possible forms of relief should be discussed with an immigration attorney. As general background, students and scholars can refer to USCIS’s Special Situations and Humanitarian Programs pages.

Forms of relief that require legal advice and representation, and therefore require immigration counsel, might include, for example:

  • Political Asylum
  • Representation in removal proceedings
  • Voluntary Departure
  • Changes of status to another immigration category
  • Reinstatement
  • Temporary Protected States (TPS), if a specific country has been designated for TPS by the Department of Homeland Security.

Advisers can also facilitate locating immigration counsel. Some good resources to share with students and scholars are:

  • NAFSA’s resource on Identifying an Immigration Attorney
  • USCIS's Find Legal Services page
  • The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Immigration Lawyer Search
  • Consider inviting an experienced immigration lawyer to present public information on your campus regarding the role of an immigration attorney, and immigration options that might exist. Talk to your colleagues; they may have already done this, and might be able to recommend someone in your area.

Types of immigration assistance a DSO or ARO can provide

A DSO or ARO can help a student or exchange visitor by reviewing the immigration benefits that already exist under current regulations. Please note, however, that absent specific USCIS guidance relating to a specific country, benefits requiring USCIS adjudication will be decided on a case-by-case basis, under normal USCIS standards. For example, a request for a fee waiver, absent specific guidance to the contrary, will be reviewed by USCIS under the standards they have set forth at and Form I-912 instructions. Likewise, as with any immigration benefit, advisers cannot guarantee that USCIS will grant a particular benefit.

Educating and assisting F-1 students with the following benefits under current immigration regulations, provided that the student qualifies:

  • Employment authorization that can be granted by the DSO:
    • On-campus work authorization, under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9)(i)
    • Curricular Practical Training (CPT), under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i)
  • Employment authorization that requires adjudication by USCIS:
    • Optional Practical Training (OPT), under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(ii) and (f)(11)
    • Off-campus work authorization based on an internship with an international organization, under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9)(iii)
    • Off-campus work authorization based on severe economic hardship, under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9)(ii)
    • Additional assistance with the above types of employment authorization might include:
  • Special Student Relief for F-1 students. DHS has the authority to suspend the off-campus employment eligibility requirements, authorize full-time employment authorization, and permit reduced course loads for students who obtain special student relief work authorization. This requires DHS to first publish a notice in the Federal Register.

Educating and assisting F-1 students with enrollment issues. Consider the following, provided the student qualifies:

  • Reduced course load, under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(iii)
  • Concurrent enrollment in another SEVP-certified school, under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(iv)
  • Extension of stay, under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(7), and school transfer, under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(8)

Educating and assisting J-1 exchange visitors with the following types of employment authorization:

  • J-1 college and university student employment can be authorized by the RO/ARO for the following types of employment, under 22 C.F.R. § 62.23(g)(1):
    • Employment pursuant to the terms of a scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship
    • Employment that occurs on the premises of the post-secondary accredited educational institution the visitor is authorized to attend; or
    • Employment that occurs off-campus, which is necessary due to serious, urgent, and unforeseen economic circumstances that have arisen since the individual entered in exchange visitor status.
      • The RO/ARO must authorize the exchange visitor employment in advance in SEVIS before the employment begins.
      • Authorization can be granted in periods of up to 12 months at a time, although sponsors are free to grant authorization for shorter periods.
      • Students in good standing are eligible for on-campus employment authorization.
      • Employment is limited to 20 hours a week except for official school breaks and the student's annual vacation, when it may be full-time.
      • Like all employment in J-1 student status, on-campus employment must be authorized in advance by the RO/ARO of the program that issued the DS-2019.
  • J-1 college and university student Academic Training, under 22 C.F.R. 62.23(f)(3)
  • J-1 professors and research scholar “occasional lectures or consultations,” under 22 C.F.R. 62.20(g)
  • J-2 work authorization, under 8 C.F.R. 274a.12(c)(5) and 214.2(j)(1)(v)